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Published: March 19th 2010
At the trig point up The Paps
Mark (with Spot the dog), Simone, Kenny, Beth (on the trig point), Sarah, Jake, Zoe (on the trig point) and Darryl
Day 312 (Box Hill to Mansfield) through to the morning of Day 320 (leaving Mansfield)
Ok, so this blog is huge. Apologies for that but we thought it would be better to 'do it all in one go'. We had the best of times in Mansfield with beautiful friends old and new. Here's what we got up too!! The land of do as you please (Wed 3rd)
We left Box Hill this morning and set our Tom Tom destined for Mansfield in the high country of Victoria. It's where the Reeves live, the crazy, beautiful Reeves family that we travelled with down much of the Western Australia coast. We last saw them in the Grampians not long after New Year and we’re very excited to be able to spend a few more days with them.
Our fabulous family (the Adams) in Box Hill have been so good to us this past year. They’ve welcomed us into their home on numerous occasions and we’re quite sad that our ability to just ‘pop in’ every now and then will soon be coming to an end. The girls are great fun to be with and I could have whooped for joy
The Paradox of our Age
The house is full of things to think about
the other day when Charlotte actually asked to speak to us when we were on a call to Grant. She wanted to tell us that she’d played Rummikub that morning, good on her! We very much hope we’ll be back at Easter but for now we were on the road once more.
The journey to Mansfield is highway most of the way and I have to admit I fell asleep for some of it. Dar stopped to make some lunch by which time there was less than half an hour to go.
It was easy to navigate our way through Mansfield itself, we passed a pub called the Delatite (where unbeknown to us Mark was working) and quite a few different shops. It looks a busy place but wasn’t anywhere near as big as I’d expected.
The Reeves live on the outskirts of the town in Bridge Creek. Our directions were to turn left at the bus shelter and follow the track past the dam. It was like we’d arrived at our dream home. No kidding. They live on a 10 acre property with two horses and their dog called Spot. We’ve never met Spot as he
The Strap Ons rehearsing in the shed
Guy on Lagerphone, Mark on vocals & guitar, Jeff on drums, Jake on bass guitar and Julie on acordian.
didn’t come on their tour of Oz but he’s there wagging his tail as we walk through the front door. We were greeted like we were his old friends rather than people he’d never met! There was nobody else to show us around but Spot did a great job. We found the table tennis table in the back living room and worked out which kid owned which bedroom. There’s a large swimming pool in the back garden with plenty of seats around a huge table. But best of all is the ‘shed’ or rather the barn. With a stage in one corner and beer fridge in the other we knew we were at the right house!
We parked the car outside the door and sat listening to the stereo while we cracked open a beer. Then we text Simone to tell her we’d found our perfect house and that we might just stay forever!
Mark and Simone have known each other since primary school and have been a couple since their mid-teens. Their zest for life is infectious and their love for each other and their family is undeniable.
The kids, Zoe (11), Ken (9) and Beth
Peterborough beach house Julie
.... here in Mansfield and 'strapping on'!
(6) are just gorgeous. They’re funny, witty, sassy, loud, fun loving real children and we love, love, love them all.
Mark came home from work to find us still relaxing in the barn so he joined us for a beer. Then the school bus arrived to drop the kids off and our hearts missed a beat watching them all run down the track towards us. What a welcome that was. By the time Simone got home from work we’d settled ourselves in and it was as though we’d been here forever. Mark already had dinner under control so we all sat down to a great meal catching up on the last few months.
There was time still for us to have a sit on the trampoline, play Frisbee, play a crazy game of multiple catch and then play table tennis with Kenny. You need to have your wits about you though because the table is on the upper section of the living room floor so there’s a step down directly behind one player at the far end - a step backwards could send you flying or worse still see you lose a point! When it was time for
the kids to go to bed I was delighted to be asked to read Beth her bedtime story. She’s part way through the Enchanted Wood at the moment and was on the chapter where they go to ‘The Land of Do as you Please’!
Simone is working tomorrow so she went to bed at a reasonable hour, as we should have done but instead we went with Mark to a neighbours house where there was a chance his brothers band ‘Don’t Ask’ would be practising. We couldn’t hear any music as we opened the first gate to the farm property of Guy & Lisa, nor when we opened the second! What we did hear was Lisa yelling out in her pyjamas trying to work out who we were. She’d been in bed and got up when the dogs barked but didn’t seem the least bit bothered and sat chatting to us til 2.30am when we all decided we really needed to go to bed! And this was just Day 1! Strapping On in Mansfield (Thur 4th)
Thursday morning dawned and I got out of bed at 6.30am to accompany Simone on her daily walk up the hill and
back. It’s quite tough going but we manage it and even Spot comes all the way to the top with us.
Darryl has put himself on sandwich box duty for yet another family, this was going to test him though as the three kids have different requirements! One wants honey and the other two want vegemite plus of course there are the pieces of fruit and biscuits to remember too. This was his new routine and he loved it but he really struggled to meet their high expectations, let me explain! Beth & Zoe have vegemite sandwiches but Kenny has honey but somehow on the very first day Zoe got honey and Kenny got vegemite. Oops! He tried hard to redeem himself but there was the ‘melon’ leakage where Beths sandwiches were soaked by melon juice on the 2nd day so Darryl decided to double wrap everything with Gladwrap (cling film). It was a great idea but he did it on a day when the kids are not supposed to take anything in their lunch boxes which can’t be recycled! The sandwich debrief on their return from school was becoming a fiasco and if things didn’t improve I was
going to have to step in! I couldn’t understand why the kids suddenly said that Darryl’s sandwiches would be fine and I wasn’t to worry. Ha ha!!
The house is not far from Mt Samaria so today we took a drive up the track to see what we could find. There’s plenty of debris strewn around the place and we come across the tree that trapped Mark, Simone, the kids and their friends a month or so ago when it came down and blocked the track. Luckily a friend had a mobile phone with them and could call someone to come up with a chainsaw!
We wanted to have a go at painting Gumnut Babies with the kids when they got home from school so nipped into town to try and find more beads to use as the heads. As it turned out we needn’t have worried too much as Beth was more interested in painting herself than the Gumnuts! It takes us a while to remember that kids painting themselves is totally ok and that although she looks a bit scary it will all come off in the wash, we hope!!
Thursday night is band practise
night here with the Reeves. ‘The Strap Ons’ are out in force and joining lead singer Mark on stage are Jeff (Mark’s brother and the bands drummer), Jake (Jeff’s son and the new base guitarist), Julie (from the Peterborough beach house and she plays Accordion) then Guy (who owns the farm we visited last night and the bands Lagophonist). For those not in the know (we certainly weren’t!) a Lagophonist plays the Lagerphone which is a metre long piece of wood with 225 bottle tops screwed into it, a tennis ball glued to one end and a door stopper glued to the other. When bounced up and down to the music it produces a great sound from the bottle tops! Together these five artists are ‘The Strap Ons’. They go through their play list which includes quite a few songs we heard Mark singing while we were travelling so we can sway / sing along and we’re loving the atmosphere.
It doesn’t take long for me to be encouraged to join in and I manage a couple of Missy Higgins songs. Then later on, much later on, we have our first attempt at Wish you were Here by Pink
Floyd. It wasn’t half bad considering it was late, we’d been drinking and I had no idea of the words! The curtain fell for us around 2.30am again but the band played on in the shed. Not that it bothers us as we can’t hear anything from the confines of the caravan and they’ve got no neighbours to worry about, it’s the perfect practise shed! Losing our marbles (Fri 5th)
I was up again at 6.30am to walk with Simone, it certainly gives us a kick start to the day. It was another late night last night and both Jeff & Jake are sound asleep on the sofas in the family room. The two girls go off to school while Kenny has to stay home, he’s got nits! We had every intention of climbing Mt Samaria this morning and taking Kenny with us but rain stopped play. It’s really miserable outside and absolutely pouring down so instead we play table tennis and keep him occupied in other ways. By the time the girls got home we’d gone a bit stir crazy and Simone had invited us all to meet her at work in town so we took the opportunity
but left Zoe holding the fort getting some 11 year old alone time!
Before we got to Simone we took the kids looking for marbles for Kenny and then into the video shop. I thought I’d found the perfect packet of marbles until I picked it up and they scattered themselves far and wide through the floor of the shop! Oops! I really had lost my marbles! We rushed round picking them up and Kenny changed his mind buying a cap gun instead, typical!
Simone’s work colleagues were fun. We got to meet Monie and Paul who we’ve heard lots about and also Paul’s wife Jenny and their baby Magnus who is a real cutie. Simone works for (read ‘runs’) the Autism Centre here in Mansfield. She loves her job but gosh it’s stressful and can be very full on for everyone if the kids are being naughty. No wonder the teachers get together for Friday night drinks every now and then. The centre itself is really interesting and reading the different prompts on the wall of how to interact with some specific pupils gives us an insight into how calm and level headed these teachers have to
be throughout the day. There’s no point shouting here, it’s all about negotiation.
Back at home the routine is much the same as last night; dinner, kids bedtime and then out to the shed for band practice. It’s not the norm on a Friday but Jeff & Jake return so I get on the lagerphone and have a great time trying to keep the beat with the rest of them. We’re really getting into the song list now with favourites like Country Death Song, Opportunity, In Love with a Girl (which Mark wrote when Zoe was born) and Ganga! Jeff’s gorgeous dog George has us in fits of laughter as he gets all excited when he hears certain songs and starts to howl along wagging his tail! He’s their biggest fan!!
Tonight we had my Dad (via CD) playing in Marks car stereo and I’m soon on the mic harmonising. Everyone’s really impressed with Dad and its great fun for me to sing along. Another 2.30am finish before we crash leaving the boys hard at it in the shed! Groundhog Day (Sat 6th)
Have we reached Groundhog Day status yet? We got up early on Saturday morning
to find Jeff & Jake asleep on the sofas and the kids watching DVDs in the family room. The leftover Thai Green Curry had mysteriously disappeared, we suspected when the band finished they were a bit peckish!
The weather kept us out of the fresh air for the second day running, don’t think we’re scared of a bit of rain but this isn’t ‘a bit’ of rain, this was coming down in torrents. Instead we played Twister, with no spinner so whoever was calling just made it up as they went along! You can imagine the pain inflicted with Darryl sat calling the instructions!
Family life is great fun and playing with Zoe, Ken and Beth is lush, we love it. There was talk of going fishing tomorrow at Jamieson so Kenny & Darryl get their rods sorted out in readiness then we all got kitted out for tonight, our night on the town. Dinner was pizza with everyone at Mark’s Mums place where the kids would sleep tonight while we were at the Commercial pub watching ‘Don’t Ask’ (the band Mark’s brother Paul is in). The rain was coming down in sheets, infact it was like Sydney
Harbour had been turned on its end and the water tipped over Mansfield, unbelievable, so Monie came round to give us a lift so we didn’t get soaked.
What a great night that was. We indulged in a couple of shots courtesy of Carly & Leanne (friends of the Reeves) who were drinking ‘Wet Pussy’ and ‘Skittle Bombs’! Then the band rocked out to ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ and we were falling about laughing but it was absolutely ace and they’re very, very good.
Julie, Jeff and Jake had joined us at the pub along with another friend Trevor so when we got back to the shed the band picked up where they’d left off yesterday … by this point it was already Sunday morning! We sang until 4.45am and then dragged our groovy selves to bed! Over reacting (Sun 7th)
Guess who we found asleep on the sofas in the morning! Jeff & Jake of course, we would have worried if we hadn’t. Having left us around 4am, Julie was required in church this morning as she plays the organ for the congregation. She needed to leave her house at 8.30 to make it there
on time, and she did! Good on her for that! We were up by 9am so we weren’t far behind but the most we could muster was to play table tennis with the kids!
Jeff & Jake went home for a bit more sleep. Beth loves to bounce on them to wake them from their slumber, so we give them a few hours and then all head over there for lunch! Mark grabs a hot chicken from a shop in town and when we arrive Simone makes up some great chicken salad rolls. It was just what we needed. We mooch around Jeff’s place for a while, it’s an original Cobb & Co staging post so it’s really, really old and has pressed tin lined walls and beautifully high ceilings.
Jake came with us for the next part of the day but Jeff went back to bed! We’ve filled the Landcruiser to its capacity of 8 people and managed to fit in Spot the dog too. Simone drives us up to The Paps which is 1ft short of being a classified mountain. The track going up is pretty rough and Mark is on gate opening duties as we
Red Bull & Courvoisier! Look who's first to finish ... not me!!
go. The view from the top is spectacular; thank goodness it’s such a clear day after last nights storms around the region. Trees have been brought down and Shepparton was badly hit the news was saying.
On the way back down we start to notice a number of mossie type bites on Mark’s back. By the time we’ve made it to the next stop, Bonnie Doon bridge, there are welts forming over his neck and he’s getting redder in the face. He said he was feeling hot and thirsty but carried on walking over the bridge with everyone to check out the views across the valley.
Simone decides to pop into a friends house nearby and Mark uses the shower, it doesn’t cool him down any so the visit is cut short and we speed off to the local hospital. We’ve phoned ahead so they know we’re coming and Simone rushes in with Mark when we get there.
We wait nervously outside with the kids. The kids aren’t nervous though. Beth finds a new game in climbing on the cruisers roof and then sliding down the bonnet then hanging off the wing mirror! I look to Jake
for inspiration but he’s out of ideas too! It’s been a while since we’ve talked to the Elliotts in Perth so I give them a quick ring handing the phone to Kenny so he can talk to Lachie - that’s one youngster entertained. Now what to do with the other two! We play noughts and crosses on the cars steamed up windows for a while and then Beth & Kenny play Murder in the Dark in a wardrobe we find in a seating area outside the toilets! It was funny and to be honest it was just a wardrobe so although I was freaking out a teeny bit it wasn’t hurting anyone … so we let them carry on. Simone came out with the news that Mark was sleeping having been given some strong anti-histamine and that the rash was subsiding. Dar was back with our car so we dropped Jake home and then continued to Bridge Creek with the kids & Spot the dog.
Thankfully Mark was fine and a night in hospital seemed to do the trick. The doctors aren’t totally sure but suspect the reaction was in response to something Mark had eaten during the day.
The only thing he had different to the rest of us was a ‘sneaky’ Dim Sim whilst in the queue for the hot chicken. The hospital staff are a bit surprised by the amount of sleep he was catching up on but we’re not! Guess what, we all got an early night too!! Everyone’s got the day off (Mon 8th)
Another downpour overnight saw us wake up to a near full dam at the front of the property and massive puddles outside the caravan. The locals can’t quite believe the rainfall but they’re not moaning about it as it will certainly help. Nobody is on mains water this far out of town (6 minute drive!), instead they have water tanks in the area and when they run dry must phone up for a water delivery. Its about $80 for 40’000 litres but its amazing how much water can be wasted by leaving a tap dripping or running the shower for a long time.
Everyone is at home today, it’s a Bank Holiday. With Mark still in hospital but expected out sometime this morning, we pay Julie a visit up at ‘Middle Earth’. It’s a magnificent property that spans
Trev, Jeff and Jake
Saturday night back in the shed - Trev took to the stage with the boys first
across many, many acres. There are cattle roaming in the fields and glorious 360 degree views from the house. The house is so big that Julie has cleverly sectioned part of it off to become a weekend getaway apartment and she’s had quite a few guests since starting. Originally of course the land was owned by Aboriginals, the Taungurang clan and Julie includes the people that lived here before the Europeans settled in her information pack on the accommodation. Originally part of the neighbouring 40’000 acre ‘Dueran’ property, the farm was acquired by the government under a compulsory purchase order for a Soldier Settlement Scheme after the second world war and has been known as ‘Middle Earth’ since the 1970s.
Julie has done a brilliant job with the decoration; she works really hard at running this property and of course the beach house in Peterborough where we stayed in January for a few days. The kids were asking questions about the chickens that Julie kept prior to taking her long service leave down at the beach house. The chickens had already stopped laying so rather than have someone come and look after them she saw to their disposal. She
explains how she brought each one to her lap, smoothed its head whilst talking to it in beautiful tones and then chopped its head off! It’s a well levelled explanation that ends with the kids asking to see the knife in question which Julie produces from the kitchen drawer!
Spying the tin kettle in the corner of the kitchen reminds me of a great Australian tradition that we’ve yet to experience. A ‘Tin Kettling’ is what friends and neighbours spring on newly weds when they returned from their honeymoon. Everyone arrives quietly on the doorstep in the late evening with food, drink and something loud to bang on - like a tin kettle. On the signal everyone bangs and clatters away until they’re let into the house for an impromptu party! Sounds like something we could bring home with us to the UK!
It was late morning by the time Mark was let out of hospital. He was fully recovered and showed no signs of the rash that had exploded all over his body yesterday - it was all very strange. Our plan of fishing at Jamieson was washed away when the rains came down again. There was
The time we got back to the caravan on Sunday morning after the night in the Commercial and then the jamming in the shed!
singing in the shed, swimming in the pool, table tennis in the front room and a game of hide & seek which turned into a mass water fight inside the house! I know, wasteful in terms of the water but it’s raining so much I figured it wouldn’t be too drastic and I was running out of ideas for entertainment! I take full responsibility for starting it after Zoe locked herself in one of the bathrooms thus forcing Beth to find me first (in the shower) making Zoe the winner. There was no way she was getting away with that so as she walked out I threw a cup of water over her and things just progressed from there really! We managed to contain everything to the bathroom and the hallway so it was easily cleaned up before Mark & Simone got home, sort of! The kids then got into baking mode with Zoe on Chocolate Cake and Ken & Beth on Rum Balls. All were totally delicious and really put me and my baking skills to shame.
Julie came over for dinner, she was just popping in for a drink but as Simone said ‘you’ll have to eat
so you may as well eat here’, so she did! Simone cooked up a splendid lamb roast, it was divine and everyone tucked in completely clearing their plates. Julie commented on how beautifully Beth was eating her dinner which at that point she was but then she decided to drink the gravy from her plate thus dunking her hair in the process! The spell was broken a bit but who cares, these kids have real personality. They’re funny, not rude, cheeky not arrogant and are full of life. Who cares if they drink their gravy from their plate, we should all do that a bit more often I reckon!
Then it was trick time. Together with Julie; Beth, Zoe and Kenny all showed us how it was possible to get an egg balanced on top of a tray above a glass of water into the glass with the assistance of a broom! The egg didn’t break and there were huge rounds of applause from the crowd. The second trick was to show us that the four of them could lift an adult using just their 4 fingers. That was a bit much for the kids so the adults had
to have a go but it was very successful! The third trick was to show I was naïve enough to hold a broom which had a glass of wine balanced on the top between it and the ceiling! They wouldn’t let me try to catch the glass, apparently it’s just not possible so after a few minutes they came to my rescue! Before bed there were a few games of Rummikub, the first time Julie has ever played so you can imagine our delight when she well and truly whooped our arses! Bed time!! Back to the future (Tues 9th)
So there ended four nights of ‘holiday mode’ for the Reeves. Real life started again today with Simone back at work and the kids back to school. While they were all doing their thing I blogged and Darryl worked on the car & caravan. There’s a bit of wear and tear in certain areas like the cupboard doors and side window that wouldn’t open but he got it all sorted and when I brought him out a coffee he was cleaning the caravan floor.
The girls went swimming after school at a privately owned pool in the next
village. 81 year old Robert and his partner Margaret have been helping kids learn to swim for years now and the set up is really good. It’s interesting to watch Zoe training with the bungee on making her work really hard and also to watch young Beth getting used to swimming lengths in certain styles. Both of them look puffed by the end of the hour. Getting to the pool was fun as not all the roads connecting the other towns are sealed. It’s no problem at all for the cruiser and we’re soon whizzing along the gravel tracks.
Dinner was a great selection of leftovers, cleared plates yet again and at bedtime I got to read Beth the next chapter of the Enchanted Wood which was the ‘Land of the Toys’ (I think!). Everyone else went to bed pretty early tonight but we stayed up to watch the film Samson and Delilah. It’s a very clever portrayal of life in an Aboriginal community on the outskirts of Alice Springs and is at times uncomfortable watching as the subject of petrol sniffing isn’t hidden and plays a significant part. There’s not much dialogue throughout the film by the acting
was strong from an unknown cast of mainly local people. Samson & Delilah are played by youngsters from two different communities and the filming took place in a disused community not far from Alice itself. Smile please (Wed 10th)
I’d been putting it off for a while but time had finally come for me to give in and visit a dentist. There’s a hole in my tooth dear dentist, dear dentist, there’s a hole in my tooth please fix it … for free?! It wasn’t the pain I was bothered about it was the bill afterwards but I couldn’t bring myself to ask prior to having the treatment done as I knew I wouldn’t have made the appointment. Whilst I was lying back in the chair looking at the interesting house painting on the ceiling, Darryl was getting his hair cut in the shearing shed. The dentist was very good, very thorough and rather forward about the mark I’ve got on one of my front teeth in that he was curious why I hadn’t had it ‘fixed’. I explained I didn’t know it was possible so he went on to show me how he would cover it up. It
was very simple and within seconds I had perfectly aligned front teeth. Brilliant but how much cash would I have to part with I wondered! He told me that it wouldn’t be very much at all, maybe $350 per tooth!! I quite like my little light patch and for the foreseeable future it’s staying with me!!
He chatted away whilst injecting my gums and making my mouth go numb, then he did the deed and used the nasty weapons that Dentists are well trained in to remove the wrecked filling, the trapped food and the general debris before filling it all in again. The bill was a cool $260 which was a bit of a shock but hey, it had to be done as I can’t possibly get through the remainder of the holiday without having anymore ice cream!
Darryl looked great with his new ‘shawn sheep’ look, thankfully it was cheaper than visiting the dentist! Mark was working in the pub so we paid him a visit then loitered around the town checking out the library and some local shops. Back at the house we were all alone so the blogging got a bit more attention until
it was time for dinner. Tonight’s entertainment was a few hard fought games of Rummikub, there was only ever going to be one winner … Simone, take a bow! Go Cobbler! (Thurs 11th) We'd just like to give a shout out to the lovely Claire Meaddows at home in Bristol. Happy Birthday Claire, we hope your day is full of fun. Lots of love from both of us x x
We’re into the morning routine now so when the alarm goes off just before 6.30am I jump out of bed to meet Simone while Darryl rolls back over and catches another forty winks! Today’s sunrise wasn’t quite as stunning as yesterdays so I was glad I’d grabbed the photograph opportunity already. Sandwiches - tick, kids away to school - tick, Simone away to work - tick, house reasonably tidy - tick, caravan sort of sorted - tick. Everything was ship shape and Bristol fashion.
We scuttled off to Mt Buller this morning as the weather was good so we hoped the views would be clear and they were. It’s a great drive and when we get there we’re surprised at how big the area is.
Mt Buller is Victoria’s premier ski resort although we’re visiting before the snow has come but it’s still impressive and we have fun trying to work out where the ski slopes actually are. We walk up to the summit of Mt Buller to do find a group of school children meditating. Well in fairness some of the children were meditating with their teacher and the rest of them were trying to stifle giggles but good on them for giving it a go!
We wanted to be back in Mansfield to see Zoe & Ken’s swim sports at the local pool. As luck would have it we spotted Doreen (Mark’s Mum) and Jake out for a wander so picked them up & took them along with us. The kids were delighted to see us (slight exaggeration!) and we duly cheered and hollered during all of their races and were chuffed to see Zoe & Ken both do very well for their house ‘Cobbler’ who came in 2nd overall. Good effort!
Thursday night equals band practise and with Simone out on a works do and Guy unable to attend, I was on lagerphone and Darryl was on crowd control! You’ve
probably guessed already that it’s not going to be an early finish! By the time Simone got back we’d been at it for a couple of hours and were slowly getting in the swing of things. Then Paul (Mark’s brother) turned up and that put a whole different spin on the night, the brothers were in their element! 2.30am came and we had to call it a night but the band played on in the shed and guess who was asleep on the sofas in the morning!! Ta ra a bit (Fri 12th)
What a ripper time we’ve had with the Reeves and their friends. I don’t think we’ve indulged ourselves this much in ages, apart from the last 11 months holiday of course. It’s been awesome though and we’re sad to leave this morning but we’ll be back for more fun and games very soon!
Zoe & Beth give us a hug before they run off to catch the school bus. Kenny wanders off before we get chance to hug him though, does that mean he loves us less?! We hope not! We wondered if we should chase him down and give him big hugs and kisses
in front of everyone in the bus queue just to embarrass him …. but we decide to let him off just this once!
Simone, Mark and the kids have treated us to the most unbelievable hospitality throughout our entire stay and we’re so very grateful. We can’t wait to return and very much look forward to more mad Mansfield mayhem!
….. today’s blog continues with our journey to and arrival in the nation’s capital!
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